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First Boeing 737 Max Certification Flight Complete, Ready For Return To Service

14:35 | 02/07/2020

The Federal Aviation Administration said on Wednesday (July 01) that it and Boeing completed certification test flights on the 737 MAX, a big step for the plane's return to service.

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first boeing 737 max certification flight complete ready for return to service
The Boeing 737 Max landed the first of its test flights, a big step toward returning the jet to commercial service. Photo: IBD

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Boeing on Wednesday (July 01) completed the required re-certification flight tests on the 737 MAX, taking the plane a step closer to FAA approval to return to service.

An extensive to-do list must be accomplished before the plane can receive clearance to fly passengers again, a milestone now expected no sooner than mid-September, according to the official announcement on the website of FAA.

"The agency is following a deliberate process and will take the time it needs to thoroughly review Boeing's work," the FAA said. "We will lift the grounding order only after FAA safety experts are satisfied that the aircraft meets certification standards".

Boeing completes 737 MAX certification test flights. Video: Reuters

During three days of testing this week, FAA pilots and engineers evaluated Boeing’s proposed changes to the automated flight control system on the aircraft that was implicated in two fatal crash flights.

The tests of Boeing’s proposed changes to the automated flight control system on the aircraft are a pivotal moment in the company’s worst-ever corporate crisis. The FAA must complete the data review, approve new pilot training procedures, among other steps, and is unlikely to approve the plane’s ungrounding until mid-September, Reuters reported this week.

If that happens, the jet is on a path to resume U.S. service before year-end, in a process plagued by delays.

first boeing 737 max certification flight complete ready for return to service
The completion of the tests on the 737 MAX is a key milestone toward the plane's return to service. Photo: qz

According to Reuters, the crisis has cost Boeing more than US$18 billion, slashed production and hobbled its supply chain, with criminal and congressional investigations still ongoing. In December, Boeing fired Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg after scrutiny into the jet's design and development tarnished its reputation with airlines and regulators.

A Transportation Department inspector general report, cited by Reuters on Tuesday faulted Boeing for not disclosing information to the FAA about a key safety system known as MCAS tied to both fatal crashes.

Boeing agreed to add significant safeguards to MCAS, make other software updates and move wiring bundles that the FAA said posed a safety hazard.

Gillian Rich commented on Investor's Business Daily that,the coronavirus pandemic has obliterated summer travel and is weighing on airlines and in turn Boeing. Carriers have selected to defer deliveries of jets to save cash. On Thursday, Berenberg analyst Andrew Gollan downgraded Boeing stock to sell and lowered his price target to 150 amid the crisis.

first boeing 737 max certification flight complete ready for return to service
The top-selling plane has been grounded since mid-March following two crashes that killed 346 people in 2016. Photo: arabianbusiness

While completion of the FAA flights is an important step, key tasks remain, including:

JOEB Validation & FSB Review – The FAA’s Flight Standardization Board (FSB) and the Joint Operations Evaluation Board (JOEB) which includes international partners from Canada, Europe, and Brazil will evaluate minimum pilot training requirements. The FSB will issue a draft report for public comment addressing the findings of the FSB and JOEB.

Final FSB Report – The FAA will publish a final FSB report after reviewing and addressing public comments.

Final Design Documentation and TAB Report – The FAA will review Boeing’s final design documentation in order to evaluate compliance with all FAA regulations. The multi-agency Technical Advisory Board (TAB) will also review the final Boeing submission and issue a final report prior to a final determination of compliance by the FAA.

CANIC & AD – The FAA will issue a Continued Airworthiness Notification to the International Community (CANIC) providing notice of pending significant safety actions and will publish an Airworthiness Directive (AD) that addresses the known issues for grounding. The AD will advise operators of required corrective actions before aircraft may re-enter commercial service.

FAA Rescinds Grounding Order – This marks the official ungrounding of the aircraft, pending completion by operators of the work specified in the AD, along with any required training.

Certificates of Airworthiness – The FAA will retain its authority to issue airworthiness certificates and export certificates for all new 737 MAX airplanes manufactured since the grounding. The FAA will perform in-person, individual reviews of these aircraft.

Operator Training Programs – The FAA will review and approve training programs for all part 121 operators.

(Source: faa.gov)

first boeing 737 max certification flight complete ready for return to service
The remaining tasks are required by FAA. Photo: Politico
In Jan 2020, Boeing reported its worst annual orders in at least two decades - as it remains in crisis over its 737 Max model. The company also said deliveries of its planes slumped to an 11-year low last year.

It means the US firm has lost its title as the world's biggest plane maker to European rival Airbus.

The 737 Max has been grounded since March after two crashes in which 346 people were killed.

Boeing said net orders after cancellations for 2019 totalled just 54 planes. That compares with 893 the previous year.

At the same time deliveries fell by 53% to 380 planes, the lowest number since 2007.

(Source: BBC)

first boeing 737 max certification flight complete ready for return to service
Boeing 737 MAX airplanes are seen parked on Boeing property near Boeing Field on August 13, 2019 in Seattle, Washington. Photo: Getty Images
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Tony Nguyen